Growing Pains in Children

Causes of Muscle and Bone Aches in Kids

teen leg pain growing pains
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Growing pains are a common complaint in adolescents. Usually found in boys and girls around the ages of 9 to 14, growing pains can cause significant discomfort for your child, and worry for you that your child has a serious medical problem. 

The word "growing pains" really doesn't mean any single diagnosis, it is just a description of symptoms of muscle or bone pain in an age group that happens to be experiencing rapid growth.

  Some use the words growing pains to describe muscle aches, bone pain, or any cause of discomfort in a growing child.  There are a few conditions that are commonly called growing pains:


One of the most common causes of a growing pain is called apophysitis (pronounced A-poff-O-sitis).  The apophysis is a area of cartilage prominence next to a growth plate.  At these locations, large tendons attach to the apophysis causing repetitive activities (such as sports) to cause irritation to the growth plate.  This leads to inflammation, swelling and pain of the apophysis.

The two most common types of apophysitis seen in growing children are in the knee (Osgood-Schlatter disease) and in the heel (Sever's disease).  People often refer to these conditions as growing pains.

Symptoms of apophysitis are typically pain and swelling at the site of the apophysis.  Symptoms are almost always worse with sports activities, and often worse several hours after the activity, such as that evening or nighttime.

  Pain typically resolves with simple treatments including rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications, however, some kids have to avoid sports for a few weeks or months to allow the condition to settle down.

Muscle Pains

Another commonly described type of growing pains is similar to delayed onset muscle soreness that is seen in adults.

  Children typically complain of pain in both legs, in the muscles of the thigh or calf.  The symptoms are described as a muscle aching or cramping, and almost always occur at the end of a busy day of sports or athletic activity.  Symptoms are uncommon in the morning or after resting.

Treatment of muscle discomfort in children is also focus on decreasing inflammation by allowing rest, icing the area, and trying a mild anti-inflammatory medication.  Limiting sports activity, especially the intensity and duration of sports on a single day, can help to alleviate symptoms.

Could Something Worse Be Wrong?

It is possible, and if your child's growing pains don't respond to simple treatments or persist, it's worthwhile to have them checked by their pediatrician or orthopedists.  There are some conditions that can have similar symptoms including:

While these conditions are much less common than the usual causes of growing pains, they can occur.

  If your child is having symptoms that don't seem to respond to simpler treatments such as rest, then it's very reasonable to check with their doctor.

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